Scientists. Activists. Lawyers. Artists. The first computer programmers.
The history books may have neglected some of the incredible Philly women who changed the world over the last 200-plus years—but we have not.
While it shouldn’t take a national observance to put women on our radar, this is one holiday we’re happy to play along with: Every weekday during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a local woman whose legacy deserves celebrating—and who continues to inspire us.
Physician / Educator
Physician / Educator
A Quaker and an activist in America’s abolition and temperance movements, Ann Preston realized she wanted to study medicine when her temperance work sparked an interest in physiology and hygiene. As no medical school would admit women at the time, Preston studied those subjects on her own, eventually gaining a position as a medical apprentice in the office of a physician friend in Philadelphia in 1847.
After being refused admission to all four of Philly’s medical colleges on the basis of sex, Preston attended the newly opened Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and graduated with their first class in 1851. In 1853, she became a professor of physiology and hygiene at the school.
Later, when the Board of Censors of the Philadelphia Medical Society banned women physicians from the city’s public teaching clinics, Preston helped raise money so that the Women’s Medical College could open a hospital affiliated with the college.
Preston spent her entire medical career advocating for women in medicine and helping them achieve their educational goals.
- Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1851
- Was a member of the first graduating class of Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania
- First female dean of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and of any other American medical school
- Member of the board of managers for the hospital affiliated with Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania
- Established a training school for women who wanted to become nurses
FINAL WORDS: “Wherever it is proper to introduce women as patients, there also it is in accordance with the instinct of truest womanhood for women to appear as physicians and students,” Preston said.